Title: Immortal
Author: Mike Dewar (
Rating: G (Mentions and hints of adult content)
Summary: Doyle's visions lead Angel to rescue a young reporter from a vampiric death. However, problems ensue when the man appears to not want to be rescued.
And in his mind, he holds the parts of a puzzle that lead to a master vampire who seeks to awake a deadly and ancient evil that threatens all Angel holds dear.
Disclaimer: Mutant Enemy and Fox own BtVS and Angel. Joss created them both. The man's a genius. And funny, too!
* * *

People come to Los Angeles from everywhere. They seek fame, fortune and the very essence of life itself.
And, sure enough, there's nowhere like LA for living. Or dying.

The hotel was one of many homes to LA's less successful citizens. Dirty, dingy and with its own private line of hookers by the door, the best you could say about it was that it was private.
And that was why he was here, mused Robert Mallory, 'Smooth Rob' to his friends. The young independent entertainment reporter, one of the best regarded in
an industry where image was everything, watched the tall man in front of him.
The man stood with his back to Mallory, gazing out of the room's single window at LA's night lights, drinking in the beauty of the lights that seemed like
a second set of stars against the velvet sky.

" Mr Du Riose?" the reporter asked hesitantly, taking a seat at the room's only table.

Slowly, the big man turned, the movement very smooth and fast, so that Mallory had to concentrate to see he had moved at all. His smooth pale hands caressed
the wood of the shaky table as he flashed the reporter a glittering smile.

" Jacques, please," he said, smiling in a self-depreciating fashion.

Mallory smiled back. His young, honest face was one of his greatest assets and he milked it for all it was worth during interviews. " May I turn the tape on?"
he asked, placing the small black rectangle on the table.

" I'd prefer if you didn't," Jacques returned coolly. Uh-oh, Smooth Rob noted, don't want to get his back up. At least not yet.

" Of course," he said, plastering his malleable features into an understanding expression.

" So...uh, Jacques you called my secretary. Something about your employer..."

" Ah yes," the man interrupted. " Dear Laurent, Mister Rock Star, with his shiny coat and loud music."
Mallory smiled weakly. " Not really the way I'd describe one of the industries newest and fastest-growing music sensations, sir,"
Jacques chuckled. " I suppose. But Laurent is so much more than that, so much more..."

" Yes?" Smooth Rob prompted, his fingers reaching for the buttons of his second tape recorder, concealed in his lap.

" You're a very successful man, Mr Mallory," Jacques said, changing tack swiftly.

" Um...thank you," Robert responded, confused by the shift in topics. " But about Laurent?" he asked, trying to steer the
conversation back where he wanted it to go.

" Laurent. Yes. Laurent wants you, Robert. To work for him. You have many contacts in the entertainment business and Laurent wishes to take advantage of them,
to try and up his audience for his big show on Saturday."
Mallory bristled. He'd been lured here with the scent of a story, only to be offered a PR position!

" I'm afraid I'm not really interested," he said, trying to remain pleasant, for the sake of professionalism. " Laurent misunderstands me - "

" Oh no," Jacques cut him off. " You misunderstand Laurent. You aren't being given a choice." The tall dark man leaned closer, his face smiling.
The smile remained, even as his face changed, the brows becoming more pronounced, the skin paler and the cheeks hollow. His yellow eyes stared into Mallory's
brown ones. " Wouldn't you like to live forever?"

* * *

" Oh God," Doyle moaned as the car swept around another corner. The half-demon groaned, clutching his head, as the car's driver jerked the wheel,
sending the speeding vehicle into another lane. " Boss, just had a headachy Vision, remember? All this rushing around isn't helping my poor brain at all!"
The car's driver glanced over at him, amusement visible in his dark eyes. " Easy, Doyle. Just don't throw up on the dashboard, okay?" Angel gripped the
wheel tighter, his eyes peering ahead.

" You're a lot of help," his friend snapped," I should get Employee Benefits for this. Left! Turn left!"

Angel spun the wheel, his foot hammering down on the accelerator, ignoring the increased moaning from his companion.
" You see the place yet?" the vampire queried.

" Listen man, you know this isn't exactly a precise art, huh? The Powers That Be don't give me a street map or anything. All I saw was a hotel room, 3rd
floor, and I got..."

" A really bad feeling," Angel finished.

" Exactly." Doyle closed his eyes, leaning against the dashboard, as the speeding car took another turn.

" A hotel, you say?" Angel asked, preternatural vision probing the night streets. "Like that one?"

" Huh? Yeah, like that one - STOP!" Doyle yelled, his eyes locked onto the small building.
Angel stomped on the brakes as the car's brakes screamed. The brakes, and Doyle. Ignoring the half-demon
panicked yell, Angel brought the car to a perfect halt.

" Okay," Doyle panted, rubbing his pounding temples. " What's the plan?" The vampire was already in motion,
leaping easily out of the car and dashing for the hotel door.

" That guy really should slow down a little," Doyle noted, his hands rummaging around the back seat for an aspirin bottle.

* * *

" Forever?" Mallory stammered, leaping backwards, upsetting the chair.

" Yes," the hideous creature chuckled, seeming quite pleased with himself. " We know you are suffering from cancer, Mr Mallory.
Your doctor's prognosis was five years of life, with treatment. Without, a year and a half. But I can save you from that and
make you live forever. A two for one deal, you might say."

Mallory's mind was blank with fear and despair. Everything the creature said was true, he knew. He had already bought a gun.
Before the year was out, Robert Mallory would have been just another suicide statistic. His mind was blank, but deep
within his soul, a tiny dark voice asked,
Why not? What have you got to lose?

" You want be to let you turn me into a...a..."

" Vampire, Robby old boy. It's not an offensive term or anything. Call me bloodsucker and then I'll get annoyed, but vampire
is fine," the soulless creature said.

Mallory wiped a sleeve across his sweating brow. He could feel the cool hardness of the wall against his back, as he swallowed.
" And you need me to agree to this?"

" No. But it's more fun than if I force you," the vampire laughed. His pale fist lashed out, grabbing the reporter's shirt and
pulling him towards his fangs.

A new voice cut across Jacques' hungry growl. " I'm sorry, but this interview is over!" A dark coated form smashed into Jacques,
breaking his grip on Smooth Rob. The reporter went flying, smashing up against a wall, the breath knocked from him.

Angel went over in a roll with the other vampire, trying to keep the creature's fangs from his throat. " Once was enough," he said
into Jacques' demonic features, smashing his elbow under the vampire's neck. Jacques let go of him, reaching for his crushed windpipe.
In a single easy move, Angel shoved the vampire off him, sending him crashing into the table. Robert's tape recorder went flying, as
the souled vampire charged towards his stunned opponent. Angel jabbed left and right, seeking a hole in Jacques' defences. The other
vampire swept a hammer-fist blow around, snapping it into Angel's jaw. The force of the blow lifted Angel off his feet and sent him
tumbling into the remaining splinters of the table.

" Nice shot," he said, wiping a drop of blood away from his mouth. Then he charged forward, slamming into the other vampire and bearing
him on, through the room's only window.

* * *

" Finally!" Doyle said victoriously, scooping up the aspirin bottle from under the driver's seat. Thumbing the cap off, he looked up at
the hotel. " I wonder what's taking him so long?"

He raised the bottle, awaiting the blessed relief...

With a booming crunch, the two struggling bodies landed on the bonnet of Angel's car. Doyle yelped in surprise, ducking, as Angel drove
his opponent's head through the windscreen. He landed a couple more blows in Jacques' bloody face and then drove one of the table's longer
splinters into his heart, dusting him.

" See? That wasn't so bad," Angel said, shaking broken glass out his hair as he climbed off the bonnet. Doyle's only response was to look
at the broken shards of his aspirin bottle and sigh longingly. A shocked, ragged figure staggered from the building, his hair and eyes wild.

" You're one of them, aren't you?" Mallory asked. " A vampire?"

Angel nodded, a spasm of pain crossing his face. " Yes."

" Please..." the reporter gasped, out of breath.

" Please what, man?" Doyle asked, scanning the man with worried eyes. " You hurt or something?"

" Please...bite me. Make me one of you. Make me live forever," said Smooth Rob desperately, hungrily.

Angel looked over at Doyle and swallowed nervously.

* * *

Cordelia Chase's fingers darted over the keyboard, her polished nails gleaming. She set her jaw,
her brown eyes firm and serious. Here it was, the final test. She'd tried and failed before, but
now her triumph was at hand...

With a cry of triumph, Cordelia hit the enter key. The computer hummed and printed

-----Microsoft Typing Tutor Score: 30%-----

" Thirty lousy percent!" she snarled. " Here I am, working my fingers to the bone, probably
developing carpal tunnel syndrome, all for a lousy thirty percent!"

The computer's polished screen seemed to smirk.

The door to Angel Investigations swung open, and Cordelia swung around with a practiced smile.

" Hello and welcome to - oh. It's you," she said, regarding Doyle. Her practiced smile returned to
the usual amused-patronizing expression she used around him. " How was patrol? Did you catch the
big bad evil thing? More importantly, did you rescue someone who has money?"

" Fine, yes and no," Doyle said smoothly. " And we did rescue someone, as for money, I wouldn't hold
ya breath, princess."

" Where's Angel? Lurking somewhere as usual? Or moping around over - hi Angel!" Cordy smiled brightly at her boss.

" Cordelia," he acknowledged, before turning to help their third companion inside.

Cordy regarded the battered reporter skeptically. " Not money. What are we, a charity home now?"

" Cordelia..." Doyle began.

" Fine, fine," she muttered, shaking her long brown locks. " Just don't come running to me when we're
broke, hungry and Angel eats us both because he can't afford to buy blood from the butchers."

Angel and Doyle paused, fixing accusing stares at her.

" Kidding, okay? God, this is like working in Nazi Germany!"

Angel guided the gently swaying Mallory to one of the room's chairs. The stunned reporter gazed at him
constantly, with a strange, fascinated stare. It made him very uncomfortable, like Mallory was
peeling off every layer of guilt, denial and will, to look at his naked soul. Doyle and Cordy just
thought the reporter was squinting a bit.

Cautiously, Doyle moved over to the still-silent man. He peered into his wide eyes.
" Hey, man? You in there? Blink twice if you understand a word I'm saying," he tried, smiling encouragingly
" Shock," he pronounced a second later, leaning back in his chair.

" Oh really?" Cordelia asked. " This from a guy who gets his medical training from ER."

" Hey, that's a very insightful program..." the half-demon defended, as she elbowed passed him.
Angel merely watched his two employees in a bemused fashion.

Carefully, Cordelia knelt down in front of the sitting man. " H-i I am Cor-dy," she said, very slowly.
" Are you oh-kay?"

" Bb," Smooth Rob muttered.

" Huh?" She leaned closer. " What was that?"

" Bite me," Mallory murmured.
Cordelia shot an accusing glance at Angel. " Angel, have you been snacking on your rescuees or something?"

" He was like that when we found him," the vampire defended himself. " I don't know what's wrong with him.
People don't often just ask vampires to bite them, it's kind of a rare occurrence."

" Bite me," Mallory repeated, his eyes locked onto Angel's dark figure.

" What's wrong with you?" Angel asked softly, pushing Cordelia aside and crouching by him.

" I'm dying by inches," he said softly, his voice and features frozen. " I want to live forever."

Angel shook his head. " You don't understand. When a vampire turns someone, they die, and a demon takes
over. It's no better than death. Worse even." The last was whispered beneath his unneeded breath.

" No, *you* don't understand!" the man snapped, his hand suddenly on Angel's shoulders. " I don't care!
I want it anyway!" With feverish strength, he pulled Angel's face towards his neck. The souled vampire
struggled, terrified of hurting the man with his preternatural strength. So much close...
He could feel the demon clamoring inside, eager to break to the surface and feed. An involuntary
growl escaped his throat, as his eyes focused on the throbbing vein, a tunnel to ecstasy.

" Uh, Angel?" Doyle asked hesitantly, eyeing the struggling pair.

With a snarl and a burst of movement, Angel flung Mallory back and shot to his feet. Without a word,
the vampire turned and left the room.

" No!" the reporter begged. " Please come back! Make him come back!" he pleaded with Doyle.

The half-demon stared after his friend, his brow furrowed. " I don't think anybody wants him back here
right now." His troubled gaze shifted to Mallory. " Especially not him."

* * *

Angel yanked the fridge door open violently, ignoring the desperate screaming of the hinges. The demon
howled inside, as he snatched up one of the blood bags and brought it to his lips. As his face shifted
and his fangs punched through the cool plastic of the bag, he sighed in relief. The demon's furious ranting
subsided, as Angel drank, sucking the bag dry, savoring each draught. As he tossed the empty plastic container away,
he noted that the fridge was totally bare. Have to pick up so more, he realized. But not now.
Angel turned to leave his kitchen, but framed in the doorway stood a figure. Doyle.

" Ya wanna talk about it?" the half-demon asked quietly.

Angel pushed past him." We've had this discussion before Doyle. I don't want to connect, I don't want to share my feelings
and dreams and end up crying into your lap, okay?"

Doyle's penetrating eyes lanced him." Sometimes we all have to do things we don't want to do," he
said quietly.

Angel half-smiled." You know, you missed your calling, Doyle. Instead of coming to work here, you should
have been a personal therapist."

Doyle chuckled softly, but his eyes stayed serious. " Very good, man. Trying to dodge the issue with
the humor thing, nice try."

" Well, I'm really improving at this whole socializing thing," Angel muttered, slumping down on his sofa.

" Yeah, well you ain't quite ready for the Mr Congeniality prize yet. Now, spill it," Doyle ordered, smiling to take the
sting out of his words.

" I'm not going to get you to go away, am I?"

" Snowball's chance in hell, Angel."

The vampire chuckled. His face turning serious, he looked directly at Doyle. " I've got a soul, Doyle.
A conscience. When it comes to self-recrimination, I'm the best. But right there, with that guy's throat near my teeth..."

" You wanted to drink him," Doyle finished.

" Oh yeah," Angel said. " And then some. I wanted to listen to his heart stop beating and savor every weakening thud."

" But you're used to the hunger," Doyle said, confused. " I mean, you deal with it every day without going down here
to sulk."

" I wasn't sulk-"
Doyle shot him a glance.
" Okay. It *was* more than that," Angel admitted. " It just got me thinking. All of what I am, the pain
the horror, the bloodlust...and that guy still wants it. I don't like my nature, but he was begging me to
curse him with the same thing!"

" He doesn't know what it means," Doyle rationalized," he can't."

"He knows enough," Angel said darkly. " At the very least, he knows he'd be driven to kill to survive.
Any fool who's watched Dracula knows that. But he doesn't care! He might kill hundreds to prolong his own
life, and he doesn't even *care*. If that's the kind of person on LA's streets today, why are we even
saving them? They're lost to darkness already, demon or not."

" Isn't that kinda cynical, man?" Doyle said, but Angel could tell his heart wasn't in it." I mean
no offense or anything, but it's been a long time since you had to worry about a limited lifespan.
People behave in a funny way when they think they might get their clocks stopped."

" Maybe," the vampire said, conceding the point. He could barely remember what it had been like to
have his heart pumping blood through his veins, to feel the warmth of life on his skin. That was
one of the tragedies of undeath, perhaps the greatest of all of them.

The half-demon and the souled vampire sat in companionable silence for a moment.
Doyle shifted slightly. Angel glanced at his friend. In about five seconds, Doyle's going to have
to say something or move around, he thought with amusement. Five, four, three, two -

" Sorry to disrupt the Hallmark moment," Doyle said, flashing Angel a crooked grin," but we still
have a vampire victim upstairs. Maybe we should look into why he was picked?"

" I'm guessing he looked appetizing," Angel said ironically.

" Yeah, but the vamp was going to turn him. How often do ya see that happen? Vampires are usually
pretty picky about who they turn and all."

" We're fussy that way," Angel said dryly. Doyle stared at him, obviously trying to guess if he was
joking. Angel returned his gaze, deadpan.

The half-demon shrugged. " Regardless, it bares researching, don't ya think? Hundreds of people are
made into vampire munchies every day, but the Powers That Be lead us to this one in particular.
Maybe there's a reason? I'd hate to have got such a huge headache for nothing, man."

* * *

" I'm *not* going to turn you!" Angel snarled, for perhaps the eighth time. Mallory had tried wheedling,
flattering, begging, playing with sympathy, just about everything to receive a fate most would fear
more than death. Angel was starting to get annoyed.

Smooth Rob opened his mouth, but Angel held up a hand. " If you say anything to do with becoming a
vampire, or with being bitten in general, I will personally dislocate both your shoulders," he threatened.
" Now, tell us about the vampire who attacked you."

The manipulative reporter met Angel's angry stare levelly, judging his sincerity.
Finally, he nodded. " His name was Jacques Du Riose, personal assistant to Pierre Laurent."

" Who's Laur - "

" Oh my God," Cordelia said, her voice shaking with excitement. " You mean, *Laurent*? *The* Laurent?"

" That's what the man said," Doyle said, irritably. " You need a hearing aid or something, 'Delia?"

" Oh my God," Cordelia repeated. " *Laurent*!"

" That's what he said," Angel responded with admirable patience. " Who is he?"

" Only the hottest LA musician since...since whoever!" Cordy exclaimed. " And you staked his personal
assistant! I guess that makes you famous just by association!"

" The girl's right," Mallory said, amused at her reaction. " Big, new act."

" Wait a minute!" Cordy said, ducking down beneath her desk. There was the sound of rattling and muffled cursing.
Angel and Doyle caught glimpses of old soda cans, lipstick tubes and movie tickets. Finally, Cordy produced
a large glossy poster from under the desk, and unrolled with a beaming smile that made Doyle's head go all tingly.

A bemused Angel surveyed the poster. " LAURENT! He wants to drink your souls! Come to the Bloodbath Palace on 9th
street for the 7-day feeding frenzy," he read in a flat voice.

"Bloodbath Palace. Lovely," Doyle muttered, peering over his shoulder. The poster showed a huge picture of a blond long-haired
man, with ivory fangs, clutching the drained corpse of scantily dressed woman.

" People actually pay money to watch this?" Angel asked Cordelia incredulously.

" Uh-huh."

" The human race is insane," Angel muttered under his breath.

" Still, Laurent could be nothing more than an musician who likes to dress up as a vampire, and who happened
to have a real vampire working for him," Doyle pointed out.

" Not likely," Mallory said smugly. " Jacques said Laurent wanted me to come work for him. In a vampire sort of way."

" Vampires on stage pretending to be rock stars pretending to be vampires," Angel shook his head.
" And I thought I was twisted."

" So, what now?" Doyle asked, his gaze slightly distracted by Laurent's 'victim'. He was sure that
it wasn't physically possible for a woman to have curves like that...

" You're the one who sees the future, Doyle," the vampire said. " Guess."

" The Bloodbath Palace."

* * *

Angel's car drew to a halt outside the nightclub. The club was surrounded by a chainlink fence, glinting in the
moonlight, a defence against criminal predators, and perhaps against less natural hunters.

THE BLOODBATH PALACE! COME VISIT HELL WITH US!, the red-neon lights over the door screamed.

" So, what are we going to do?" Mallory asked eagerly, glancing at each of the three in turn.

" *We* are going to do nothing at all," Angel said firmly. " Doyle?" The half-demon produced a pair
of stainless-steel handcuffs, and chained Mallory's wrist to the steering wheel.

" Guys?" the reporter pleaded, as they got out of the car. " Please don't leave me here. I want to see. Guys? Please?"

Ignoring, the pathetic cries, Doyle turned to Angel." So what's the plan, boss?"

" First, we get inside and check out if Laurent really is the real deal. After that, we improvise. Chat with people.
Try and find out about his operation, that line of questions."

" This 'chatting'" Cordelia said carefully," would it involve dancing with people?"

" And perhaps drinking at the bar?" Doyle added hopefully

" For information purposes only, of course," Cordy said smoothly.

" Of course," the half-demon agreed.

Angel sighed. " Okay."

His two employees exchanged triumphant grins and pushed past the vampire into the club.

Angel followed, and was instantly overwhelmed with sound and noise.

* * *

It was like a temple, Angel mused, looking around the nightclub at the mortals dancing. A temple
where humans danced in adoration, while wearing demonic costumes of leather and metal, lit by hellish
flashing blood-red lights, while the pulsing music played with haunting, seductive lyrics and
a pumping primal beat, like the beat of a human heart as a vampire sucked its life away.

" Whoa," Doyle said.

" Cool," Cordelia said. Angel left the two of them, pushing through the morass of humanity, searching
for a shadow to withdraw into, in the way that was almost second nature to him.

Content, safe in the comforting arms of the shadows, he let his gaze wander to the stage. And to Laurent.

The second he saw him, it was like an electric shock. He couldn't quite define the sensation, a combination
of the flowing way the man moved, his scent, the way his eyes glittered like a cat's in the flashing light, and
something he couldn't put his finger on. But the message was clear. Laurent was a vampire. And not just some
fledgling with a desire to be on stage. He was old and powerful, maybe even as powerful as the Master had been.
The pale blond haired man spun and danced, seeming to fly through the air.

Angel shook his head. How couldn't the people around him see it? The vampire sung louder than any microphone could
magnify, screaming out the lyrics, even as he twisted and whirled with a grace and speed beyond any mortal
gymnast. Even as Angel watched, Laurent soared into the air, leg muscles tense as he leapt up, touching the ceiling,
three times his own height above him. No wires, but still the people refused to believe.

Shaking his head again, Angel began to push through the crowd, moving closer to the stage. The walls of humanity around him
assaulted the vampire, and he felt disorientated. The deep, hypnotic beat hammered along his bones as he stood, confused, lost.
Everything, every sensation was too powerful. The heartbeats of the crowd, the scent of their blood, the pulsing light...

Suddenly, the vampire felt cool, calming hands around his feverish skin. Doyle and Cordelia pulled him through the crowd,
back to the safety of the shadows.

" You okay man?" Doyle asked, concern clearly audible in his voice. " Ya look kinda under the weather and all."

" You're look dead. Deader than usual, that is," Cordy said bluntly.

" The noise and heat...too much," Angel tried to explain.

" Getting ya demon all angsty?" Doyle simplified.

Angel chuckled. " Something like that. A place like this is pretty much the nearest you can get to vampire heaven. Plenty to eat,
a chaotic atmosphere..."

" Lots of people in cowhide..." Cordy continued, smiling slightly.

Angel's lips twitched. For a second he looked like he might laugh, but then it was gone.
The rhythm of the music changed, losing its primal, vampiric edge. Looking up, the vampire saw that Laurent and his band had been
replaced by a new, human group.

" I think we need to go backstage," Angel said, his dark eyes scanning the restless crowd for an exit.

" Uh, sorry to rain on your parade, man," Doyle responded," but, places like these, you need a backstage
pass to get past the bouncers."

Angel cracked his knuckles. " Not going to be a problem," he said confidently.

* * *

The bouncers did in fact give Angel pause. About two seconds of it. Moving past the stunned humans,
the three found themselves in a long slender corridor, painted a deep shade of red. Angel was uncomfortably
reminded of the inside of a creature's throat. The problem was, were they moving inside it, into the safe
darkness of the creature's belly, or outwards, into its sharp, snapping teeth?

" At least it's quiet down here," offered Doyle, seeing the worried expression on his boss's face.

" Yeah, quiet like a tomb," Cordelia muttered unhelpfully. Angel ignored them both, walking down the corridor, taking turns
and opening doors at random, trying to find something that looked vampiric. At least, *real* vampire vampiric, he thought with disgust,
turning away from yet another dressing room covered in goth black and blood-red furniture.

" What exactly are we looking for?" Cordelia queried. " 'Cause if we just keep on wandering around here, we're going to walk
right into..." Angel pushed another door open. Seven startled vampires looked back at him, cradling instruments.
"...a trap," Cordy finished.

* * *

Mallory hummed quietly to himself, idly banging his fingertips against the windscreen of Angel's car. To him, each
bang of his fingers was like another beat of his heart, counting down to the day his cancer caused it to stop beating.
Leaning his forehead against the steering wheel, he let the blackness of his despair roll over him.

A rustling sound disturbed his melancholy thoughts. He glanced around, worried. Though he was going to die anyway if he didn't get
get turned before his cancer got serious, he was anxious to put off the actual event of his death for as long as possible.

" Hello? Anyone there?" the reporter asked nervously, his eyes darting around, straining to pick up any movement in the darkness.

Suddenly, a pale hand reached out of the shadows and plucked him off the seat. With a muffled cry, he was drawn into the shadows.

Clamped to the steering wheel, a broken pair of handcuffs dangled forlornly.

* * *

Angel smiled nervously. The seven demon-faced vampires were scattered around the well-furnished room, tuning their instruments. The room itself
was a perfect duplicate of an 18th-century drawing room, but with all the furniture removed. Long black funeral drapes wrapped themselves
around the room's windows, perfect for anyone who didn't like the sunlight.

One of the vampires moved forwards, flashing a dazzling, strangely familiar smile, as his face returned to human. Studying his features, Angel realized where he had seen the man
before. His hair was now short and dark, but the pale elegant features were unmistakable. Laurent himself smiled politely at the souled vampire.

" Can we help you?" the older vampire asked, calmly.

" Your hair's different," Angel noted, stalling for time.

" A little bit of play-acting, I admit," Laurent said, flashing his dazzling smile again. " Who might you be, sir? Wandering around backstage with two humans
and no backstage pass?"

Inwardly, Angel sighed with relief. At least Laurent hadn't realized what Doyle was. That wasn't really an advantage, but trying to explain their
colleague's dual nature to Cordy was the last thing he wanted to worry about.

" My name is Angelus," the vampire said, flashing a cocky grin. Laurent raised an eyebrow. Desperately, Angel hoped that Laurent had heard of him, but also that his
information wasn't up-to-date.

Laurent chuckled out loud. " Ah, the famous Angelus! Charmed. And your friends?"

" I'm Doyle," Doyle said nervously.

" I'm Cordelia," Cordy said nervously.

Angel forced a grin, trying to recall and use all the mannerisms of his demon half. Though he was nothing like the demon, having decades worth of memories from
when the demon was in control gave him a good idea of how to behave.

" A lovely pair of psychopaths who I met in a little bar in Chicago," Angel lied, putting his arms around their shoulders. " These are two very sick
puppies, for mortals, that is."

" Are you crazy?" Cordy asked. " We're not -" Doyle elbowed her.

" What she meant to say is," Doyle said quickly," for mortals? Hah! We're as bad as any vampires, aren't we honey?"

Cordelia finally caught on. " We drink blood too, like you, only we do it just for kicks! How evil is that?"

The two of them broke into strained laughter, smiling hopefully at Laurent.

" I see," Laurent said dryly.

" Like I said," Angel broke in," they're crazy."

" I can see that," the other vampire answered." Still, on to more important matters. Who told you about my...operation,

" A friend of yours, name of Jacques Du Riose, said you could use someone like me," Angel responded smoothly, getting more into his role. The wicked smile
he flashed was pure Angelus.

" Oh, you know Jacques?" Laurent said, smiling easily. Angel took a breath. They could pull this off.

" Know him? They killed him!" A new voice said from the doorway. Mallory smiled smugly at Angel, as he was half-pulled, half-dragged inside by another vampire.

" You killed my Jacques?" Laurent asked, his voice dreadfully quiet.

" What are you doing?" Angel snarled at the grinning reporter.

" Well," Smooth Rob sneered," since you won't turn me, I guess I have to find a vampire who will."

" Really, 'Angel'," Laurent hissed," do you think I am so idiotic as to fall for such a pathetic ruse?"

" Well, now that you mention it..." the souled vampire said dryly.

" I am not some idiotic Sunnydale fledgling, Angel. We do things differently in LA. We network. We keep up-to-date
on the latest news. We don't wander blindly into the hands of Slayers and their vampire boytoys! It's a shame you
didn't work that out. It is also a shame that you are going to die. Goodbye, Angelus." The older vampire picked up
an electric guitar, hefting it like a club and walked forward, his face flashing that dazzling smile.

Angel swept a devastating hook punch for the elder's face, but it never landed. Laurent swayed out of the way and smashed the guitar into Angel's chest.
As he staggered back, another blow smashed across his face. Angel blocked the second swing on his forearm, but Laurent simply planted his open hand on Angel's chest
and pushed, straight-armed. Angel hurtled backwards, smashing into a wall.

" Please, try not to damage the furnishings too much," Laurent said, in a concerned tone of voice. " It was very expensive and time-consuming to
get this room laid out in the 18th-century style, and the prices of builders in this century are practically criminal."

Angel pulled himself to his feet. " I'll be sure to recommend a good interior decorator."

Laurent chuckled, then rushed forward, swinging the battered guitar. Angel lashed out with a side kick, slamming Laurent's chest, driving the vampire back. He
followed the move with a flurry of punches, pounding the vampire around the head and shoulders.

Doyle looked nervously at the rest of the undead band, but they merely stood and watched the confrontation, engrossed in the fight. He felt his sweat, cool against his skin, as
he reached under his jacket, fumbling for the stake he always kept there. It was gone. Doyle nearly howled with frustration. After wearing the damn thing for dozens of fights, all
of which Angel easily handled on his own, while Doyle sat in the car with the wood jabbing into his side, and now, just when he needed it, he'd left the damn thing at the office!

Angel ducked a sweeping guitar strike and smashed his fist into Laurent's belly. As his opponent doubled over reflexively, Angel grabbed Laurent's head and swept his knee up, hard.
The older vampire grunted as Angel's knee connected with his chin with bruising force. The souled vampire grabbed the stunned vampire's shirt and hurled him backwards. Laurent crashed
into a drumkit, sending metal and drumsticks flying. The cymbals clanged on the ground, as the master vampire lay still.

Suddenly, shockingly, Laurent sprung to his feet, wearing his vampire face." Nice shot," he remarked, rubbing his jaw.

" Well, I work out," Angel responded, dropping into a fighting stance.

Laurent sighed slightly. " This one-on-one thing is getting boring. Boys, kill them. Please."

Angel met the charge of the other six vampires head-on. He ducked below the first's guard, a stake stabbing out. The vampire exploded into dust.
Fledglings, Angel thought, probably only a few weeks old. No problem.

The fact that there were five of them, however, *was* a problem. Slowly, inexorably, Angel was driven backwards.

A vampire crashed into Doyle, knocking him off his feet. He quietly cursed his absent stake again, as the vampire leapt onto his back, the cold hands reaching for the back of
his neck, to twist and rip at the half-demon's spine. Cordelia slapped inefficiently at the vampire's back, doing little more than annoying it. Doyle grunted in pain, as the vampire's fingers
dug into his back. Then his hand closed on something. Something smooth and wooden. One of the drumsticks from the smashed drumkit, Doyle realized. Uttering a quiet prayer, he rolled upwards
and thrust. Cordelia found herself slapping at a cloud of dust.

A fledgling sent a front kick pounding towards Angel's chest. Evading the blow, the souled vampire grabbed his opponent's out-stretched leg and heaved. The fledgling vampire went sailing into
the rest of his soulless brethren, buying Angel a few seconds of time. He felt a warm back against his own. Doyle. Cordelia pushed in as well, leaving the three back-to-back.
Angel swept the room with his gaze, looking for anything that could save them. An escape route...a decent weapon...Buffy with a rocket launcher...anything. His eyes fixed on the room's nearest window.

" Doyle, Cordelia, do you trust me?" he asked quickly.

He could practically feel Doyle's confusion. " Of course man, but what's that got to do with-"
Doyle felt Angel's cold hand clamp onto his shoulder. Angel's other hand grabbed Cordelia, and he sent his two employees hurtling towards the window. As the glass shattered and they tumbled outside,
Angel dove after them, a human spear lunging for safety.

"Drat," he heard Laurent snarl." That window was expensive."

Angel hit the ground beside his two friends, rolling easily. " Run!" he snarled.

" You don't say," Cordelia muttered, as they sprinted away from the building. Behind them, Angel could hear the angry growls of Laurent's minions, in hot pursuit.

They were approaching the chainlink fence, Angel's car clearly visible on the other side. Angel boosted Cordelia up and over the fence, then Doyle. He heard a fierce snarl behind him, as the lead vampire dove
for his back. Angel spun, knocking the fledgling to the ground with a vicious backhand. As the vampire bounded to his feet and lunged again, Angel turned to face the fence and leapt.

Angel soared over the fence, his feet just brushing the top. As he hit the ground, he heard the fledgling crash into the fence.

Diving into the back seat of the car, the vampire snapped, " Drive!"

Doyle, in the driver's seat, gunned the ignition. The black car shot forward, leaving the red lights of the Bloodbath palace behind.

Laurent gazed after it. " How irritating. Still all's well that ends in the violent death of a lot of people," he said philosophically. " And there will be a lot of them."

Mallory was dragged before the master vampire. " So, you want to be immortal," Laurent asked curiously. " Hmmmm?"

Smooth Rob watched him, not daring to even hope.

Lightning fast, the master vampire moved forward, and the last thing the mortal soul of Robert Mallory saw was teeth.

* * *

Two blocks down, Doyle sent Angel's car into another turn.

" I think we lost them," Angel said, peering backwards.

" About time!" Cordelia snapped. " I don't believe this! We finally go to a nice club, and what happens? It turns out to be run by vampires and they try and kill us all. Angel,
you are such a jinx!"

Angel sighed. " Cordelia, I -" The car jerked to one side, and the vampire nearly fell out of the back. " Doyle! Eyes on the road," he said, glancing over. " Doyle?"

The half-demon was convulsing violently in the driver's seat, his eyes staring directly ahead. The vampire recognized the signs all too well.

" Cordy! He's having a Vision!" Angel yelled, throwing his upper body over the driver's seat, trying to grab the wheel from Doyle's shaking hands.

Cordelia, her complaint forgotten, murmured comforting nonsense in Doyle's ear as Angel tried to bring the car under contol.
His brow furrowed with concentration, the souled vampire twitched the wheel from side to side, trying to stablize the fast-moving vehicle.

Doyle's teeth chattered rapidly as he stared into the air, unaware of his friends' desperate situation. In the back of his mind, Doyle knew there was something he was supposed
to be doing, but it was swept away by the images, the sensations and the pain, driving like a lance into the back of his neck.
Pictures, hazed in red, tumbled through his mind. Beneath the Bloodbath Palace....tunnels...leading to some*thing*. Exhausted, the half-demon sagged to one side, as Angel
brought the car to a shaky halt. Cordelia cradled his head, still whispering to him.

" 'Delia?" Doyle asked weakly.

" Shush," she ordered. " That was a bad one, even by your standards. Very...shaky and trembly."

Doyle closed his eyes, and remembered.
" We have to turn around," he rasped, his voice tight with pain.

" What?" Cordy asked. " Uh, vampires back there? Certain death back there? Tell me if I'm ringing any bells?"

" What is it?" Angel asked softly. " What did you see?"

" It's bad this time, man," Doyle answered, his eyes haunted. " Really bad. There's something under the club, something really mean and nasty."

" Can it wait?" Angel asked, his dark eyes concerned. " You need to rest."

" No way, Angel," Doyle said firmly. " If we don't get this thing, I've got a feeling we're all going to be resting. Resting in peace, I mean."

Angel grimaced. " Okay. Back we go. One thing though, Doyle."

" Yes?"

" I'll drive, this time."

* * *

Angel landed lightly on the other side of the Palace's fence. With considerably less grace, Doyle landed next to him, clutching his aching head.
The weakened half-demon leaned against the fence, his face white, while Angel peered at Cordelia through the fence.

" Just stay put," the souled vampire warned. " We may need to make a fast getaway."

" You mean if you run blindly into the bad guys like you did last time?" Cordelia asked bluntly, arching an eyebrow.

" Pretty much, yeah," Angel answered solemnly, hiding a smile.

Cordy shrugged. " Okay. Don't do anything heroic," she warned them both, her voice school teacher-strict. " If you feel the urge to be brave, ignore
it! I want both of you back okay."

" Nice to know you care," Doyle answered, flashing her a weak grin.

Cordelia looked affronted. " What, I can't have emotions or something? But if either of you are expecting a passionate goodbye kiss, you can forget it."

" We have to move," Angel said, his face grim. " I can't find any vampires, but they'll be along as soon as the concert ends." The vampire moved off into the shadows.

Doyle gave Cordy a quirky smile. " Okay, if passionate is a no-go, how about affectionate?"

" Maybe. If you were rich. But you're not," Cordelia responded, grinning.

" Doyle!" Angel called.

" Our boss is too work-orientated," the half-demon complained, following the dark-coated figure.

" Too true," Cordelia muttered under her breath. She felt a nasty little twinge in her chest, watching the two of them walk away. The young woman shrugged it off as she
walked back to the empty car.

* * *

Doyle staggered through the bushes, eyes slitted, his head buzzing like an angry bee. " It can't wait, I said. Resting in peace, I said. I'll be fine, I said. I'm a masochistic idiot, I say!"

Ignoring the complaining half-demon, Angel sniffed the night air. He focused, filtering out everything around him...the music of the club...the wind blowing against his cool skin...Doyle's
complaints...something metallic caught his eye. " Under the club, you said?"

" That's right," Doyle answered, bloodshot eyes trying futilely to pierce the gloom. " You see something? Don't leave me hanging here, man!"

" I might have," he responded, his sharp eyes looking closer. Yes. There it was. A metallic gleam, hidden in the undergrowth.

" A manhole?" Doyle asked, frowning thoughtfully. " That's a pretty strange thing to have outside a nightclub, don't ya think?"

" That's what I thought. Unless it just looks like a manhole..." The vampire reached down and ripped away the steel cover. He tossed it casually aside and bent down, looking into the darkness.

Doyle glanced at the torn metal disc as it landed next to him." Remind me to never arm-wrestle you, Angel."

" Noted. Feel like a little spelunking?" his employer asked, easing down into the tunnel below.

The half-demon watched Angel's head and shoulders descending into the shadows." I'm guessing that 'Emphatically not' wouldn't be the right answer here?"
There was no response. Sighing slightly, Doyle clambered down, rubbing his throbbing temples.

" OW!"

" Sorry," Angel apologized. " Forgot you can't see in the dark like I can. Just take my hand," he offered.

" I'll be fine," Doyle snarled with injured pride. " Just need to get my bearings - OW!"

Angel waited patiently. A few seconds later, a humbled voice said," Where would that hand of yours be, exactly?"

Taking his friend by the shoulder, Angel began to lead them through the pitch black passageway. After a few minutes, Doyle found that he could make out the outlines of the passage as his eyes adjusted.
He had remarkably good night vision for a human, probably because he wasn't entirely human, he admitted to himself. However, the increased vision wasn't really a comfort. It merely allowed him to
see the curves of the passages around him, and then to realize how familiar those passages were. Except that when he had seen them before, they had been illuminated by the hellish light of a Vision. The
passages were becoming more familiar now. There would be a turn to the left...then the passage would double back on itself...then it would lead to somewhere, a place that every time Doyle tried to remember it,
he felt himself start to shake.

Angel turned left, then followed the passage as it turned in a precise U. He glanced back at Doyle and was discomforted by how pale the half-demon looked. His face was almost as white as Angel's own undead
features. " You all right?" he asked, his voice concerned. " Vision headache still with you?"

" Something like that," Doyle answered grimly.

" Just hang in there," Angel said compassionately. " It'll all be over soon."

Yeah, Doyle agreed silently as they turned the last bend, that's what I'm afraid of.

* * *

The first thought that hit Doyle as they rounded the corner was, church. The room beyond was like that, like a little chapel. Doyle had never been a particularly religious boy, but something in the air spoke
of worship, of holiness. Or rather, of unholiness.

Candelabra lit the room with a dim flickering light, but it was enough to see the two monstrous figures that dominated the room. A man and a woman, totally hairless, their skin obsidian black. They wore black
robes and were seated upon black thrones. Doyle blinked. It was hard to tell where each figure began or ended. It seemed like just a monstrous sweeping mass of darkness, topped by two black hairless faces, their
eyes closed and faces eerily blank. The only dash of color came from two symbols, one on each of the motionless figure's foreheads. The man had a red seven-pointed star tattooed on his forehead, the woman a
white spiral. They might have been statues, except for the disturbing way in which their cloth-covered chests moved up and down. Up and down. Doyle's chest moved in the same rhythm. Angel's did not.

The figures were breathing.

The only thing that offset the strange, ancient appearance was a pair of large black speakers, resting against a wall, directly facing the statues. The two pairs of black shapes stared emotionlessly
at each other. Doyle was hard put to say what seemed more terrible, the hairless figures or the heartless black metal speakers.

" You ever seen anything like this before?" Angel whispered.

" No. But I'll hazard a guess they didn't employ an ordinary interior decorator for this work. More like the interior decorator from hell," Doyle quipped. The joke fell flat, swallowed up by the immense, solemn silence.
Doyle cleared his throat. " So, uh, we've come, we've seen, and I'm sure we'll get the conquering bit right any time, so can we go?"

Angel didn't look around. " This place freaks you out."

The half-demon nodded. " Oh yeah. I haven't been this freaked out..." He fell silent.

Angel glanced at him. " Since what?"

" No, you don't get it, man. I haven't been this freaked out," Doyle explained, his voice too high, too on edge." Ever. You know what I mean?"

" A few more minutes," the vampire said softly. " Just a few." He began to examine the rest of the room.

" Sure," Doyle said awkwardly. " Great. Yippee." He swallowed and managed a weak grin at the motionless figures. " So, you come here often?" he asked the woman. Predictably, there was no response.
Doyle studied the figures. Sure they were weird, he thought, but they weren't ugly or anything. He saw worse in the mirror after a heavy bout of drinking. It was something about the symbols that disturbed him, some little
memory that didn't quite want to jump out at him.

" What was that?" Angel asked sharply.

Doyle's pulse rate shot up. " What was what?"

" Sounded like voices," Angel said, cocking his head. " Coming closer."

" Voices? Bad voices, right? So we should probably leave," Doyle said hopefully.

" Good call," Angel agreed, walking to the exit.

Doyle shot a last uncomfortable glance at the motionless figures, at the symbols on their heads, and then walked away.

As the two men disappeared into the shadows, the male figure's obsidian hands slowly balled into fists...

* * *

* *

" So, let me see if I've got this straight. Weird churchy place, big black people, and Doyle having a wiggins. That about right?" Cordelia asked, gazing at her computer in puzzlement.

" Yep," Doyle said, shifting slightly. " That's it." He leaned forward, catching a glimpse of the screen.

-----Microsoft Typing Tutor Score: 12%-----

The screen read.
The half-demon tried to hide a smile as Cordelia turned back to them. " So, what does this tell us? Except that Doyle's a knock-kneed coward, and I had my suspicions about that before this," she asked. Doyle stopped smiling.
Unfortunately for him, after this little announcement, Cordelia showed her most winning smile. Doyle gulped as his insides turned to warm water. " What's wrong?" Cordelia asked, eyebrow raised with amusement. " No comeback?"

Doyle gave her a shaky grin, while trying to control his raging libido. " I'm saving it." Noticing Angel's amused stare, Doyle suddenly became very interested in an old book from Angel's collection lying on the table.

Her opponent vanquished, Cordelia turned her attention to Angel. " So what are we going to do? Kill them or something?"

" Kill them," the vampire confirmed.

" Men," she sighed. " Always ready with the violence."

" Well, I'd have them arrested and sent to prison, but I don't think they'd get on well with the other inmates," Angel quipped, smiling slightly.

Cordelia stared at him. " Was that a joke?" she asked suspiciously. " Who are you, and what have you done with Angel?"

Angel shook his head, his smile fading. Cordelia grinned. " Ah there's ol' granite-face," she teased. Angel frowned. " Not that you're impassive or anything," she continued hastily. " Just reserved. I think reserved is good,
isn't it, Doyle?"

" Oh, yes. Yes! Bingo!"

Cordelia and Angel stared at him. " Is there something you want to share?" the vampire asked quizzically.

" I knew I recognised those symbols from somewhere," Doyle said, grinning triumphantly. " Right here, the Inventory Maleficius, chapter 15!"

" And look who's channelling Giles," Cordelia muttered. " So, what did you find?"

" Just give me a second to finish this paragraph...oh."

" Oh?" Angel asked, searching his friend's suddenly blank face. " Is that good or bad?"

" Definitely the latter, man," Doyle answered, his grey eyes serious. " The symbols are the symbols of Zakaneth and Partara, a pair of Da'rati demons. Brother and sister, it says here."

" Lovely," Cordy said. " A pair of demony relatives. Guess their sibling rivalry stage must have been messy."

" Not really," he continued, his face grim. " They were twins and soulmates. Totally connected to each many ways, not all of them exactly spiritual, if you know what I mean?"

Cordelia's brow furrowed as she picked the sentence apart. " Huh? What do you - oh. Brother and sister? Ew much?"

" Da'rati?" Angel asked." They feed off emotions, right? But I've heard of a few. They're not that bad, as demons go."

Doyle shook his head. " You're right about the emotions. Fear primarily, but they can feed off anything if they have to. However, that not so bad thing? Not really true here. Ya see,
the demons you're talking about are babies."

Angel frowned. " Babies?"

" Yup. There are only two living mature Da'rati on the planet," Doyle continued. " Those are our kids. When they were active, they wiped out several - "

" Cities?" Angel asked, the faintest hint of nervousness appearing in his voice.

" Continents. You know how the geologists go on about the earth having changed a lot in early times? Well that wasn't volcanoes and earthquakes, that was Zakaneth and Partara and their
brothers and sisters." The half-demon smiled weakly. " These guys wake up, 'Armageddon' doesn't even cover it."

" How were they defeated?" Angel said. " I mean, we've still got some continents left, so they must have been stopped somehow?"

" Yes," Doyle nodded. " But not by the forces of light. The rest of the demons had a falling out with them, started wars. Eventually, they killed off all of the mature Da'rati, except for
our two. They were too powerful, even for the other demons. They would kill, and feed off the pain and fear of the dying, growing even stronger. Eventually, the demons were able to enchant
their armies so that they felt no emotions at all, no passions, like robots..."

" ...and Zakaneth and Partara starved," Angel finished grimly.

" Yes, but not even that killed them. Without sustenance, they went into a coma of sorts. There's never been an upwelling of emotion strong enough to wake them since, not for thousands of years."

" Okay, so they've been asleep for a reaally long time," Cordy broke in. " What's going to let Laurent wake them up? I mean, the whole of human history hasn't disturbed their naps, so what's he going to do?"

" I don't know," Doyle answered softly. " I don't know."

The three of them fell silent. Angel stared at the cover of the lore book, deep in thought. Demons, he mused. Truly eternal demons, that nothing could kill. Mallory, the poor sap, thought that vampires
were eternal, but he'd never met any vampire over a thousand. These...things were the true immortals, totally unkillable.
But how was their incredible power any threat, if all they could do was snore? Then, with a force rivalling one of Doyle's visions, it hit him.

" The club," he said. " It's all to do with the club and Laurent's music."

" Huh?" Cordelia asked. " Be kind, Angel. Share the thoughts."

" Don't you see?" the vampire asked, becoming more certain with every second. " With his music, and the mortal atmosphere, the whole image Laurent has created, he's tapped into an incredible amount of human emotion.
All those fans, dancing like they're in a frenzy? It provoked my demon, but it wasn't the demon they were aiming for!"

" And those speakers in the chapel place," Doyle agreed, his eyes wide with cold shock. " They'll transmit all the sounds of all that mortal passion down to the demons. And I bet it'll be televised too. More emotions,
more human minds and hearts, all focused on one place, all channelled into the demons!"

" That is just unfair!" Cordelia burst out.

" Huh?" the half-demon asked, his face twisting with confusion.

" All those promos, all those huge budgets, just to end the world! How shallow are this vamp guys?" she asked.

Angel and Doyle exchanged glances.

" Well, I guess we bust up their little recital," Angel said, getting to his feet. " Doyle, get weapons. Cordelia, start researching the demons, find out more about them, their weaknesses, shoe size, anything."

" And you, man?" Doyle asked.

" I'm going to get ready for some serious Rock 'n Roll," Angel said, smiling slightly. " Vampire style."

* * *

It was perfect, Laurent thought. Their biggest audience yet out there, howling their foolish mortal hearts out. You could taste the human passion in the air, almost as seductive as human blood. The vampire master carefully
peered through a gap in the scenery, examining his victims. No...his audience. An audience to the greatest destruction the world had ever seen.

" You know, I'm actually going to miss this," he remarked to the other vampire at his side.

" Excuse me?" the minion asked, confusion twisting his features. Laurent had turned him for his technical know-how, for managing the great sound systems that would carry the music to the mortal audience...and to slumbering
Zakaneth and Partara. Unfortunately, Laurent thought, those very technical, level-headed qualities made him unable to comprehend the sheer demonic irony of the concerts.

" Performing for the crowd," he clarified, carefully keeping his contempt for the lesser demon out of his voice. " The throb of the music, the yelling of my's addictive."

" But what's coming is going to be even better," the minion answered, hungry eyes surveying the crowds.

" Oh yes. This performance is going to be something special. Any critics that survive will go wild," Laurent chuckled. His eyes narrowed as he turned to his servant. " Pierre, let me make one thing very clear. The show
*must* go on. Keep the sound systems working above all else. This is our largest audience, and if something goes wrong I'll feed you to Zakaneth and Partara myself."

" Of course, master Laurent," Pierre quavered. " The show must go on," he repeated softly, sitting down at a desk, in front of a laptop. His fingers raced over the computer keyboards, dancing, while Laurent watched in fascination.
There was a kind of magic to it, he mused, this wondrous manipulation of information. He was almost sad he had never learnt to use it. Still, after tonight it would be pointless anyway.

" All systems ready," Pierre announced. " The towers are active as well." Laurent smiled at the thought. Great speakers had been placed on long poles all around the club. People for blocks around would hear his music. And all that
complex machinery came together here, behind a layer of false black scenery, in a small control room. His eyes fixed onto a small grating. Pierre glanced over as well, and swallowed. That grating lead to the chapel, to the place where
the Da'rati would wake and feast on the world's life.

Laurent smiled once more, gleefully, as his band members gathered around him. " Mustn't keep my public waiting," he told Pierre.

Around him, technicians finished their rituals, counting down furiously. " 5...4...3....2...1"

And then the concealed doors in the scenery opened, and the audience went insane.

* * *

" Are we prepped?" Doyle asked the vampire, as they sat in the central office.
Angel frowned as he carefully adjusted the stake-launcher strapped to his arm. A twist of his wrist would send a stake sliding into his hand, ready to kill. " Yeah."

Cordelia frantically adjusted her make-up in a small hand-mirror. " Just a minute! If we die, I want to die looking good!"

Doyle groaned, glancing at his watch as he grabbed a bag of stakes. " Come *on*, 'Delia, the show's already started, for God's sake."

Angel snapped his wrist activating the launcher. The stake shot out, dangerously fast, past Angel's hand. It embedded itself in a wall. Horrified, Doyle watched the vibrating stake. " Hmmm," Angel muttered. " Spring's wound a bit tight."

" Guys!" the half-demon pleaded. " Please, let's just go!"

Angel slipped a long steel sword under the folds of his black coat. " We're already gone."

* * *

Laurent strummed his guitar frantically, screaming the song's lyrics wildly. The rest of the band played the hell out of their instruments, while the audience screamed for more and stomped their feet. Humans flung themselves onto the stage,
only to be knocked aside with brutal force.

Laurent laughed wildly. It was out of control. Nothing could have prepared him for the wildness of the concert. It was controlled insanity, surrounded by the highest of human technology.

It was perfect.

* * *

Angel dropped in the tunnel, Doyle and Cordelia just behind him. With a click, the light of flashlight illuminated their way.

With every step, his weapon bag banging at his side, Doyle could feel the fear more strongly. He had thought the first time was bad. This was worse.

This was unbearable.

* * *

The vampires swayed and swung their bodies around, bloodsweat covering them all. Behind the black backdrop, Pierre tapped keys furiously, sending the music to the rest of the world and to the demons below. He laughed out loud with glee, as the
speakers reached near their maximum volume.

On stage, shining like a star in the spotlight, Laurent howled with glee. For this moment, his moment, he was a god, he was invincible, indestructible.

In the memories of his audience, he was immortal.

* * *

" Ew," Cordy muttered as they entered the chapel. " Loud and very icky." The chapel had been lit in black and red, and the music and the screams of the audience poured out of the speakers opposite the twin Da'rati.

" What's the plan?" Doyle shouted over the music.

Angel looked around the room, trying to remain calm. It was like being back in the crowd of dancing mortals, he thought. The demon howled against his self-control, urging him to find his way into the club above him and join the frenzy.
His eyes flickered from side to side as he tried to focus. Across the room, a portion of the wall slid aside, letting a square of blessedly ordinary electric light into the room. Robert Mallory stared at them from inside the secret passage, yellow eyes
wide with shock and fanged mouth open. " You!" he snarled.

" Mallory," Angel greeted him coldly. " I see you got your immortality. Hope you enjoyed it, because it's about to come to a crashing end."
The newborn vampire snarled at him, and then dove into the passage. Angel dashed after him, feet hammering on the floor.

" Uh, Angel?" Doyle called after him. " What about us?"

* * *

The little bastard was fast for a fledgling, Angel thought grimly. But not fast enough. Step by step, the older vampire was gaining. Mallory flashed a horrified glance over his shoulder, staring at the angry figure coming after him. No, his mind screamed.
He was a vampire now, he was immortal. This wasn't how it was supposed to go! Growling with denial, the vampire leapt up a steel ladder, smashing open the grate at the top. He burst into the control room.

Pierre spun with confusion. " What are you - "

Then an angry Angel sprung up the ladder, diving into Mallory's back and driving the two vampires through the thin layer of scenery, out onto the stage.
The two of them crashed out onto the open stage, black wooden shards falling around them. Just for a second, Laurent's playing faltered.
The audience howled.
* * *

Doyle was upset. He was terrified, confused, and the bloody music was giving him a tremendous headache.

" Why couldn't Laurent be playing something soothing," he snarled, clutching his head," like jazz?"

" What do we do?" Cordelia shrieked. " What do we do?"

" I don't know!" the half-demon roared. How to stop an entire concert?

" Doyle," Cordelia whispered. Something about that whisper cut through all the din, through all the confusion and nearly stopped his heart. Slowly Alan Francis Doyle turned. Zakaneth's eyelids were lifting, revealing a hellish red light, the likes of which he
had never seen.

" Oh shit," Doyle whispered.

* * *

Angel drove a fist into Mallory's jaw. As the vampire staggered backwards, Angel slugged him twice more.

Up at the front of the stage, Laurent's face was cold with sweat. " The show must go on!" he roared to his band, to Pierre at his computer, to the demons below. " The show must go on!" And the audience cheered louder.

One of Laurent's men charged Angel, growling, yellow eyes fierce. The vampire's elbow drove into Angel's belly, and the souled vampire was driven to the ground. His opponent loomed over him, leering wickedly. Angel snapped his legs up, locking them around the
other vampire's neck. With a twist of his knees, he spun the man to the ground, breaking his neck. He snatched up a wooden shard of the broken backdrop and impaled the other vampire. As his enemy burst into dust, Angel leapt to his feet, drawing his sword from under his coat.
Another vampire dove towards Angel, but the souled vampire snapped his wrist sharply. The over-sprung stake launcher sent a wooden bolt into the fledgling's heart.
As the vampire exploded, Angel charged Laurent, his sword glinting darkly under the hellish light.

* * *

Pierre swore. The music was starting to become fragmented, shaky. Luckily, he had prepared in advance for such an occurrence. A tap of a key turned off the microphones attached to the performer's instruments and activated a pre-made tape of the songs. The vampire smiled.
Monsieur Laurent had prepared for everything. The show would go on.

* * *

Doyle swore. Slowly, inexorably, the demon's eyes continued to open. He wasn't scared anymore, but that didn't make him feel better. The reason he wasn't scared was because the Da'rati was feeding off his emotions, devouring his fear before he even felt it. A strange eerie
humming seemed to come from the demons as Partara's eyes started to open as well.

Cordelia swore. She had tripped over something, and bruised her knees. Now, not only was the world going to end, but she had smudged her mascara and had ugly bruises on both knees. Not good. Then she noticed what she had tripped over.

A thick, black electric power cord. Which ran into the speakers.

* * *

Laurent spun, lightning fast, parrying Angel's sword strike with the microphone stand. Angel swept the sword low, slicing through the star's guitar strap. The instrument crashed to the floor, and Laurent snarled, his face turning vampiric.

Angel grinned. " Getting any performance anxiety?"

The older vampire charged him, the steel mike stand sweeping around in a lethal blow. Metal clashed against metal again and again. Ducking a blow, Angel thrust out with the hilt of his sword, driving it into Laurent's belly. The vampire star went crashing into the midst of his fans.
Angel tensed, preparing to leap after him. But another band member dove into him, hard and fast. Angel staggered and slashed out at shoulder height. The vampire turned to dust as his head was severed, and the audience screamed with excitement and glee. Mallory drove into the souled vampire, clubbing him
with his fists, forcing him to drop the sword. The audience booed.

* * *

Cordelia yanked on the cord, and all was silent.

" WHAT DID YOU - I mean what did you do?" Doyle asked, trying to adjust to the echoing silence.

" I pulled the plug," she said, holding up the cord. " The IRS did the same thing to our phones."

Doyle gave an insane little giggle. " Great. Great," he spluttered, distantly aware that he was going into shock.

" Doyle," Cordelia whispered, using the strange cutting whisper for the second time that night.

Partara's eyes had closed, but Zakaneth's continued to open.

* * *

Angel charged Mallory, smashing into him. The two vampires crashed through the scenary for the second time that night, diving into the control room.

" This isn't fair!" Mallory snarled. " This isn't fair!"

Angel grabbed him by the shirt and thrust him into a mass of wires and cables. Instantly all of the lights, all the of power went out.
The soulless vampire started to shake violently, sparks flaring around him.

" Life isn't fair," Angel told the quivering figure, as the emergency lights came on. " Get over it."

* * *

Zakaneth was tired. Very tired. There had been...something...a beacon...a wonderful ocean of desire, hunger and ecstasy, bringing with it memories of striding the earth, of slaughtering those weaker than him - which was everyone - and of fear, wonderful fear filling it with life. But now it was
gone, and Zakaneth was tired, and some annoying mortal creature was attacking it....

" AAAAAAAH!" Doyle yelled a war cry, bringing his bag of weapons down on the demon's head again and again.

Zakaneth's eyes slid shut.

* * *

Slowly, Angel walked out of the control room, slipping through the hole in the backdrop. All was unnervingly silent. Hundreds upon hundreds of eyes stared at the lone vampire, as he stood in the dim light of the emergency generator's lights. Laurent's minions crept silently through the crowd,
slipping to the exits. Laurent's dream was dead, and they knew it.

Angel's dark eyes surveyed the people. These were the ones he fought for in every battle, night by night. The faceless, nameless ones who might have been victims of demons he had slain, or vampires he had staked. These were his people, if he had any people at all.
Then, it started. John Elliot Moor, aged 21, seated in row G, seat 7, stood up and started to clap. Then another stood, and another.

The entire audience, mass upon mass of assembled humanity, began to applaud. They whistled, and roared, and stomped their feet.

And Angel, formerly Angelus, the Scourge of Europe, spread his arms and bowed.

* * *

As the souled vampire came off the stage, he met two familiar, slightly hysterical figures.

" Where's Laurent?" Angel asked, trying to be heard over the chaotic applause.

" No idea, man," Doyle answered, his grey eyes worried.

His face grim, Angel started for the exit. Doyle followed, pausing only to pull a fame-drunk Cordelia away from the stage.

* * *

Laurent was cursing in five languages as he dove into the driver's seat of his private limo. Damn that Angelus, he cursed inwardly. Damn that souled freak!

Pierre ran up to the window as he started the engine. " Please, master, let me go with you!" the younger vampire pleaded.

Laurent's eyes narrowed. " I told you to make sure the show went on. You failed me."

Pierre began to back away. " Master, no..." With a snarl, Laurent grabbed him and pulled him through the driver's window, his fangs going to the other vampires neck.

* * *

Angel dashed out of a side door, Cordy and Doyle in hot pursuit. He spotted the master vampire's limo, speeding towards the exit. " Stall him," he commanded Cordelia and Doyle.

" Stall him?" Cordy asked incredulously. " How?" Ignoring her, Angel drew his sword and ran for one of the speaker towers, the weapon gripped tight in pale hands.

" Stall him," Doyle told Cordy, and rushed after him.

" How?" Cordelia Chase asked no one in particular.

* * *

Laurent bore down on the gates. He would just blast through, he decided. Not very stylish, but a necessary evil. Then, suddenly, a dark-haired woman ran out onto the road ahead
of him, screaming and waving her arms. Laurent chuckled and kept going.

Cordelia flung herself to one side, landing in a bush. " You should have stopped!" she yelled accusingly after the limo.

* * *

" So, what's your idea?" Doyle asked, as he and Angel reached the pole.
Wordlessly, Angel slashed with his sword, hacking at the scaffolding.

As Doyle watched, a nasty grin crept across his face. " Oh yeah. You're bad." He drew an axe from the bag and lent a hand, as Laurent's car continued down the road towards them.

* * *

Laurent stomped on the accelerator, laughing wildly. He had done it...he was going to make it out, away from that devil Angelus. Then, he heard a cracking sound, like a tree falling.

" Huh?" the elder vampire asked.

" Tiiiimbeeeer!" Doyle yelled, as the pole swept down, slamming across the car's path. The beautiful, polished, armored limousine drove straight into it. As flames and sparks surrounded the car, Laurent screamed in agony.

As Angel took a deep breath and let it out, his supernaturally sharp hearing picked up the voices of the leaving mortals, as they strolled innocently to their cars and motorbikes.

" Man! The special effects of those shows get better every year!" An enthused voice said.

" Nah, I didn't think the whole staking thing looked very realistic," another disagreed.

" Are you kidding? Those were the best! I want to be like that guy some day."

" Like Laurent?"

" No, the other one, the one who didn't sing."

Angel smiled.
The show was finally over.

* * *

Angel sat alone in his office, doing what he did best. Brooding alone in the dark. Mallory might have been obsessed with immortality, he considered, the Da'rati might have been genuinely eternal, but in some ways, Angel and Laurent
got the nearest to the true concept. No matter if Angel burned in the sun the next day, he would always live in the minds and the imaginations of the concert-goers and anybody they told about the show. That was true immortality. Not
how many centuries you might live, but how many would remember you when you were gone.

That was what it was to be eternal.

The light clicked on, and Angel blinked at the sudden brightness. Doyle walked in, smiling widely and sat down.

The two friends regarded each other silent. In his head, Angel started the Doyle-countdown again. 5...4...3...2..

" So," Doyle said. " What was it like?"

" What was what like?" Angel asked, keeping his face carefully blank.

The half-demon seemed about ready to explode with repressed curiosity. " You know, being in front of all those people! Hearing them all applaud!"

" It was okay."

" Okay?" Doyle asked, his face twisting with disbelief. " Just okay?"

" Yes," Angel answered calmly." Just okay."

The half-demon's penetrating grey eyes studied Angel. " Glad to hear you enjoyed it, man," Doyle responded. " Now, I'm going to celebrate with a drink down at the pub." Smiling to himself, the half-demon walked out, turning off the light
as he left.

Alone in the darkness, Angel pulled the Laurent concert poster out from under his desk, and smiled to himself.

* * *

Notes from the author: Well, that was my first Angel story. I've been writing fan fiction for a while, but it has all been Ally McBeal orientated comedy fiction. Needless to say, Angel is a big change, but I've been a huge Buffy and Angel
freak since they started. I've been meaning to write a Buffy fic for yonks, but instead, I wrote an Angel fic. Buffy's not on right now, and it's always easier to write for a series that is currently on the air, because it's easier to stay
true to the writer's vision. I don't live in America, so we're only at episode 5 Angel-wise. Yes, I know Doyle dies, but I don't really want to write fiction with Wesley in it until I can figure out the character dynamics and such like.

Well, I've had a ball writing this fic, which is great considering for me fic-writing was becoming a bit too much like work, which is no fun. But now the fun is back, and I've got more than enough ideas to keep me busy.

- Mike (Cheers to any Allyfic people who might be reading this fic! I love you guys!)